Bread is a staple food prepared from a dough of flour and water, usually by baking. Making bread dates back to as far as the Neolithic age. It can either be leavened or unleavened, depending on whether yeast has been added to it or not, to help it rise and acquire fluffiness. There can be of various types of breads.
There are major four ingredients to prepare bread: flour, yeast, water, and salt. All other ingredients are to add flavor, nutrition, color, and to change characteristics of the crumb. Other ingredients like fat and/or leavening agents, baking soda are also used as part of bread-making process. Various other ingredients such as icing sugar, spices, fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and herbs for taste and flavor.
Yeast is heart of the bread-making process that makes dough rise and gives bread its taste and aroma. It can be live yeast, instant rice yeast and active dry yeast. Live yeast is used most commonly.
In yeast packet, there are thousands of living plant-like microorganisms. On activated by warm liquid, and fed by sugar or starch, yeast releases tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide gas which makes dough rise and achieve its light texture after baking.
Flour provides structure for the product. Wheat flour is most common type of flour used in bread baking. It includes all-purpose flour, bread flour and whole wheat flour.
Wheat is rich in gluten, a protein that gives dough its elasticity and strength. When yeast and flour are mixed with liquid and beaten, gluten combines to form a web that traps air bubbles (carbon dioxide) produced by yeast.
Whole wheat flour have less gluten and make denser loaves. So, some all-purpose flour is added which increases gluten and makes lighter, taller loaves.
Water or milk, helps carry flavorings throughout product and helps to form gluten bonds.
Water is the most important liquid because:
- Dissolves and activates yeast.
- Blends with flour to create a sticky and elastic dough.
Liquids also act as steam during baking, contributing to tenderness of product. Additionally, yeast needs liquid in order to develop, reproduce, multiply, and form byproducts which make bread rise. Milk, buttermilk, cream or juice may be added to enhance flavor or texture.
Only warm liquids should be added to dry ingredients because:
- Too cool liquid slow or stop yeast action.
- Too hot liquid destroy the yeast and prevent it from rising.
- 100°F-110°F, when yeast is dissolved directly in water.
- 120°F-130°F when undissolved yeast is added to dry ingredients.
Brown sugar, honey, molasses and jams may be used. Major role of sugar in yeast breads is to provide food for yeast. Sugar tenderizes bread by preventing the gluten to form bonds. It also holds moisture in finished product.
Salt is an important ingredient in bread baking as adding salt to bread dough strengthens gluten and enhances flavor. In yeast breads, it helps to moderate effect of yeast so bread doesn’t rise too quickly.
Eggs add food value, color and flavor to breads. They are leavening agent used in some bread. When a lot of eggs are used, they contribute to flavor, add richness and protein. Egg yolks act as an emulsifier for a smooth and even texture and it also add fat.
Most common fats used in bread are oils, shortenings, and butter. Fat coats gluten molecules so they cannot combine as easily which contributes to tenderness in finished product. It also slows moisture loss, helping bread stay fresh longer.
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